Belfast Telegraph

Billy Weir: From Linfield to Bangor - an alternative A to Z of the season past

Memories: David Healy and Jamie Mulgrew celebrate yet again
Memories: David Healy and Jamie Mulgrew celebrate yet again
The red beast from the east is on the march from Larne
Nasty Crusaders spoiled the fairytale for Ballinamallard

By Billy Weir

And so my dear friends, we wave a fond farewell to what has been a rip-snorter of a season in the greatest little league in the whole wide world.

But before we reach for the Swarfega to try and squeeze into those Speedos before heading off to Benone, let us sit back, relax and savour what has quite literally been the 2018-19 season.

Hopefully I will be with you again come the new campaign, although between me and you I am very tempted by an approach, on what a manager once told me, on one of those Bosnian rulings, to go to the Weatherfield Gazette.

A is for Aaalinfield: Where else to start but with the worthy champions, who put on the best defensive show since Rorke's Drift. The midfield isn't bad either with the peerless Jamie Mulgrew, and Andy Waterworth up front, who yet again showed he is the go-to man. They were also very lucky. Stands back, awaits torrent of abuse.

B is for Braidhearts: A&E at Antrim Hospital is still dealing with a backlog of major contusions from Ballymena United fans pinching themselves at a season they'll never forget at Warden Street, and now Eurovision is taking hold. I now have an image of Bryan McLoughlin whipping David Jeffrey's skirt off that no amount of Bucks Fizz is going to eradicate.

C is for Cups: The new restaurant at Seaview is doing well by all accounts and they'll not be short of receptacles if you fancy a wee cuppa. The Irish Cup and the Co Antrim Shield make up the biggest cup and saucer set in the world. There are also unconfirmed reports that Stephen Baxter is now being called Uncle Albert after his unexpected medal haul.

D is for Dirty Deeds: The treatment of three legends of the game, in Messrs Smyth, Leeman by Glentoran and their former team-mate, Colin Nixon at Ards. Shameful stuff, and some would say you reap what you sow. The game needs men of this calibre and class back and let's hope they get clubs that deserve them.

E is for Extraordinary: Talking of that, Rodney McAree's departure by mutual contempt, sorry, consent, from Coleraine was the something Ted Hastings and his squad couldn't figure out.

F is for Farewell: It was goodbye to Ronnie McFall, a man with more curtain calls than a Harry Corry travelling salesman. We said goodbye - again - as he hung up his hat for the 'final' time as manager, although given his track record he'll probably pop up in a dug-out again next season. Probably at the Glens.

G is for Mr Goal: By his own incredibly high standards, Joe Gormley probably feels he didn't have a great season, but still shared the golden boot with Andy Waterworth and became Cliftonville's record marksman. Legend.

H is for Healy: Managed Linfield to two trophies, became manager of the year and also took time out to enquire as to my whereabouts when Linfield beat Ballymena. Will they be as lucky next season?

I is for Invermen: Teller of futures and scourge of the bookies, Nostradamus predicted many moons ago of a red force from the east rising to challenge and defeat the established order. If that doesn't mean Larne will win the Premiership next season, I don't know what does.

J is for Jimmy: Key component of Linfield's miserly defence, goalscorer supreme and enough player of the year awards to choke a donkey and still no-one can spell his first or second name, but well done Jamie Carragher.

K is for Kofi: No, not Mr Annan, the late Ghanaian former leader of the United Nations, a smaller cog in the Ballymena United nation, Mr Balmer, was a worthy winner of the young player of the year award.

L is for Larne: Hang on, haven't we already been there? No, this time it is the Old Boys of the Tech, who had a cracking season, reached the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup and provided us with comedy gold when Strabane's Luke McGeehan was sent off for his rugby tackle.

M is for Mallards: Of course, no mention of the cup could go without doffing our caps to the mighty Mallards of Ballina, the biggest duck-based shock since it was revealed what Daffy was actually saying when he said 'suffering succotash'.

N is for Newry: After years in the doldrums and a highly improbable comeback, a bit like Elvis without the jumpsuits, Newry City and their refreshingly honest manager Darren Mullen were all shook up and sent back to the ghetto of the Championship.

O is for Oran: Don't do it, Oran, don't do it. I know your Bannside buddies desperately want you back but your new bunch of Buddies at St Mirren need you now.

P is for Play-offs: The ne'er do wells whined that they would never work but every year the cruel madness that is the play-offs never fail to deliver, although I wouldn't mention that just yet to Gary Hamilton.

Q is for Queen's: My old Alma Mater got to the last eight of the cup and won their league by only losing two games, and that's a damned sight better than any results I managed to get in my time at Queen's.

R is for Revenge: Portadown fans are still bursting into tears anytime anyone sets down a Lamb Madras or a Chicken Bhuna in front of them as they can't handle a good Currie. Thankfully, Carrick had no such qualms and they and Niall are most welcome back to the Premiership.

S is for Skinner: I know we've already had one but the best comedy sending off of the season belonged to Eoin Bradley after being shown red after a clash with Ballymena's Jim Ervin (how he wasn't in the team of the year, I'll never know) and then hauled him around the Showgrounds like a bag of nutty slack.

T is for Telly: We've never had it so good, for years I have banged on about the Beeb extracting the digit and showing the game we all love and thanks to losing the egg-chasing contract we now have more live games than you could shake a stick at, as well as Sky's offerings too.

U is for Useless: There are many surfaces now on show in football, 3G, 4G, grass and, at Ballymena, a ploughed field which has been a godsend for those preparing for the Balmoral Show, but put a serious dent in their title aspirations. No Best in Show-grounds for Mid and East Antrim Council.

V is for Veterans: There was to be no fairytale ending for John Connolly in the Irish Cup Final, but to get there in his early sixties is quite an achievement. Also special mention to Coleraine's Steven Douglas (54), as Oscar Wilde said 'with age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.'

W is for Wise men: And so it shall come to pass that a mysterious stranger laden with gifts will come from the general direction of Iran promising to deliver you from evil and lead you to the promised land. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the three wise men they were looking for at Glentoran have proved impossible to find.

X is for Axe: The managerial revolving door has been spinning around like Kylie this season with half the clubs changing the man in charge at least once, and after all that the only one who really achieved anything of note was Paddy McLaughlin, who accumulated enough points to keep Institute up and then guided Cliftonville into Europe.

Y is for Youthful Exuberance: And at the other end of the age scale comes Town manager Stephen McDonnell, who achieved a minor miracle by recovering from six defeats in a row at the start of the season to survive with ease. Let's hope he also breezes through his Leaving Cert.

Z is for Bangor: Every year the 'how will he fashion a Z' out of this is broached, so come with me on this. Trust me. Well done to Bangor on starting the journey back to the top by gaining promotion to the C Division, we all remember the Seasiders when they played much higher, as does Zeke Rowe, who played for them. I think I got away with it again!

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph